Why is Fentanyl So Dangerous?

Why is Fentanyl So Dangerous

It’s the drug that killed Prince, Tom Petty, and Mac Miller. It’s the opioid that took the lives of 29,000 people in the U.S. in 2017. It’s the synthetic narcotic which has 50 times more potency than heroin.

Yes, we’re talking about none other than fentanyl.

For years now, fentanyl has been taking over heroin and morphine. In fact, the U.S. CDC says it’s caused more deaths than any other opioids.

This alone should already answer your question, “Why is fentanyl so dangerous?” But to those who’ve become addicted to it, it’s not enough for their clouded judgment.

That’s why as a concerned parent, sibling, child, or friend, it’s best you know more about this drug. This way, you are better equipped to handle a drug intervention and to make them agree to go to rehab.

Ready to learn more about fentanyl? Let’s dive right into it.

What is Fentanyl?

So, what is fentanyl?

It’s a type of drug that falls under the opioid category. Opioids are often used as a form of medication for relieving pain. These substances also contain chemicals which help relax the body.

Not all opioids are illegal – there are those which doctors have the authority to prescribe. After all, these prescription meds help 50 million people in the U.S. who suffer from chronic pain. Morphine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, and codeine are examples of prescription opioids.

Doctors can prescribe fentanyl, but only for patients with severe pain conditions. The same goes for patients who’ve gone through surgery and need pain management. But it’s a schedule II prescription drug, because of its high potential for abuse.

Why People Become Addicted to and Abuse it

Fentanyl is so powerful that even inhalation of fentanyl patches can be intoxicating. But it’s also this intoxication that drives people to keep using it even when no longer needed. From here, dependence and abuse start, causing serious physical and mental health problems.

What exactly does fentanyl drug do to the body and make people want to keep using it?

Fentanyl works much like how heroin and morphine do, in the way they affect the brain. To be more precise, the body’s opioid receptors, which regulate pain and emotions.

Fentanyl or opioids bind or “attach themselves” to these receptors. Once they do, they trigger a considerable increase in dopamine levels. This then results in a relaxed, even euphoric state.

Aside from pain relief, it’s also this euphoria that makes people use opioids. In the case of fentanyl, its extreme potency drives people to want its euphoric effects.

Granted, heroin and morphine bring the same effects. But comparing fentanyl vs morphine, the former can be up to 100 times more powerful. That’s why it causes more deaths than these two other commonly-abused opioids.

Why is Fentanyl So Dangerous?

Fentanyl side effects are much like heroin, including nausea, drowsiness, and confusion. It also causes constipation, sedation, and in case of higher doses, unconsciousness. Respiratory problems, like chest pain, tightness, and breathing difficulty can also arise.

But that’s not the end of it. Its effects are so potent that anyone who uses it has such high potential for becoming tolerant to it. This, in turn, can lead to addiction and abuse, which can be the precursor to overdose.

Overdosing on fentanyl can cause coma and death.

Fentanyl can do this since it can affect opioid receptors controlling breathing rate. When taken in high doses, this drug can cause the person to stop breathing completely. From there, death can then follow.

The extreme potency of fentanyl is what makes it more dangerous than other opioids. There’s a much higher risk of overdosing on it, especially if someone uses a drug not knowing it has fentanyl.

Furthermore, illegal fentanyl pills are often mixed with other drugs. These include narcotics like cocaine or heroin. In any case, this combination further boosts the drug’s potency and life-threatening effects.

When Fentanyl Abuse Occurs

If taken only as prescribed by a doctor, the risk of overdosing is low. But when someone uses it outside of doctor’s orders, they can become tolerant to it.

Tolerance occurs as the body adjusts to continuous receipt of the drug. This then results to a person having to increase intake of the drug to achieve the usual effects. But the body keeps adjusting to these changes, to the point that it can no longer take the higher doses.

This abusive behavior from developing tolerance is what leads to drug overdoses. Also, the more fentanyl ingested, the more dangerous the side effects – and their severity.

The Signs of Fentanyl Abuse

Overdosing on fentanyl often causes symptoms like shallow or slow breathing. People who abuse this drug can also become depressed and isolate themselves. Lack of energy, loss of strength, as well as muscle and back pains are also common abuse signs.

It’s important these people get medical attention when these symptoms appear. Again, fentanyl can completely stop breathing, causing coma or even death.

Also be on the lookout for withdrawal symptoms pointing to a person’s use or abuse of fentanyl. These occur when someone stops its use or there’s a significant reduction in their usual dose. Here are a few of these signs that a person is on fentanyl withdrawal:

  • Restlessness, irritability, or anxiety
  • Chills, sweating, watery eyes, or runny nose
  • Muscle pain, back pain, or joint pain
  • Quickened breathing
  • High blood pressure or increased heart rate

General weakness, stomach cramps, nausea, and vomiting are also typical withdrawal symptoms. If you notice a loved one exhibiting these symptoms, take that as a sign of possible fentanyl abuse.

Help for Intervention and Rehabilitation

Now that you know how and why is fentanyl so dangerous, act quickly if you suspect a loved one addicted to it. Of course, seeking medical attention is the utmost priority. But for one to completely rid themselves of fentanyl addiction, rehabilitation should follow.

Does someone you care about and love suffer from drug or alcohol abuse? If so, then please don’t hesitate to connect with us. We can help prevent even more serious consequences from befalling your loved one.

Content Reviewed by Jacklyn Steward

Jacklyn StewardJacklyn is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) and an EMDR trained trauma therapy specialist with over 6 years of experience in the field of addiction. She has a Masters Degree in Mental Health and Substance Abuse Counseling from Nova Southeastern University.